Thea: Stunning new bandaged sheep cheddar from Mariposa Dairy

Award-wining Thea Bandaged Sheep Cheddar made at Mariposa Dairy.

The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you must come and sample the new cheese from Pieter.”

The caller was Tammy Miller at Country Cheese in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheesemonger in Durham outside Toronto. I stopped by a few days later, and right away sent an email to Pieter van Oudenaren at Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario:

“Wow, Pieter, Thea is a stunner! Tell me more so I can spread the word to Canadian cheese lovers.”

To the point, Thea is an outstanding bandaged cheddar made with Ontario sheep’s milk by the Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve division of Mariposa Dairy where Pieter has had a hand in developing aged cheese like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Tania Toscano Sheep Cheese over the last nine years.

Hand-crafted in small batches using premium sheep’s milk from Miklin Farms near Georgina, Thea Bandaged Cheddar is made in the old world way by wrapping the cheddar wheel with cheesecloth which helps to age the cheese and preserve the flavour.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren with young wheels of Thea in the aging room.

Aged nine months in a humidity-controlled aging room, the cheese yields a woody and buttery aroma, a sharp nutty profile with subtle caramel undertones. It has the sought after crystallization of a well-aged cheddar with a firm but creamy texture.

As Roxanne Renwick, a cheese specialist in Toronto, puts it: “Thea is rich and creamy yet full of tyrosine crystals. Sweet, salty and slightly tangy.”

The name Thea (along with the names Luuk, Taavi and Zander of truckles made at Mariposa Dairy) is a common Dutch name. It reflects the Dutch heritage of the VandenBerg family, Mariposa founders and owners, and the Dutch reputation for great cheese.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren was born and raised in Bobcaygeon, a short drive from Lindsay. His parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s. The family name comes from Oudenaarde, a Flemish city in Belgium. Pieter’s father, Harry van Oudenaren, who is turning 95 this month, owned and operated an auto repair garage in Bobcaygeon for many years. Pieter took over the business and operated it for 27 years before the cheesemaking bug took hold nine years ago.

Since then, it has been one award after another for Lenberg Farms cheeses, including Grand Champion honours for Thea at this week’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

“What’s your secret in making such fabulous cheese?” we asked Pieter.

“A secret is a secret. In the words of Monty Python, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ I have been blessed with a great company and owners to work for and with. Good components, co-workers, a wife that supports and prompts me, and consultants that have helped me along the way to help me to tweak the recipes.”

Pieter describes himself as a learner: In recent years, he’s learned to sail a boat, drive a horse and carriage, and make maple syrup, in addition to making award-winning cheese.

He and his wife, Grace, who is executive secretary at Mariposa, have two daughters.

The Thompson family in the milking barn at Miklin Farms in Georgina.

Miklin Farms in Georgina is owned by Mike and Linda Thompson and operated with their children, Anna, Laura and Joe. The Thompsons have been farming sheep for 29 years. They currently have 1,000 breeding/milking ewes, milking 500 at a time year round. The breed of sheep is Rideau crossed with East Friesian.

Anna Thompson holds a lamb in her arms at Miklin Farms.

Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:

Ask your cheesemonger to order Thea if she doesn’t carry it.

Distributors are Finica Food Specialties, Fromages CDA, Glen Echo Fine Foods, La Ferme Black River and Worldwide Specialty Foods.

Le Pizy: Truly outstanding Québec farmstead cheese

Le Pizy: Outstanding farmstead cheese from Fromagerie La Suisse Normande.

We’ll go for months without Pizy, and then, when we taste it again, we fall in love all over again.

There is no question Le Pizy, created by Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande in St.-Roch-de-L’Achigan, Québec, is one of Canada’s best farmstead cheeses. When it comes to aroma, flavour and texture, Pizy is simply outstanding, and pretty in appearance, too.

We were first introduced to Pizy while spending too much money on cheese one afternoon years ago at Marché Jean Talon in Montréal in the company of Vanessa Simmons, arguably Canada’s leading cheese sommelier.

Try and buy Le Pizy at the upcoming Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto.

Vanessa’s tasting notes tell all:

Pizy has and remains one of my favourite top 10 Canadian cheeses, for sure. It’s even better if you keep it past the best-before date on the package by at least a week or two or more.

The cheese has more yeasty notes when it’s young which develops into more of a mushroomy, slightly nutty flavour as it ages. It’s very pretty, with the most delicate hue of champagne.

This small, soft, surface-ripened pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is fashioned after the Swiss Tomme Vaudoise, due to its shape (small wheel) and size (only ½-inch thick). Le Pizy has a thick bloomy ivory rind, with a rich, dense, paste coloring between ivory and pearl. Experience big milky, fresh field mushroom aromas and a fresh lactic taste with a sweet tang when it’s young, softening out as it ages.

The hand-crafted cheese produced at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande represents the marriage of two cultures, Swiss and French. Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu comes from Switzerland, husband Frédérick Guitel who manages the farm comes from Normandy in France.

Their resulting cow, goat and sheep’s milk products are a marriage made in heaven. Cheeses are made from animals raised on the farm, in true “fermier” (farmstead) fashion.

Meet the Suisse Normande family, left to right : Fabienne (mother), Magaly, Bénédicte (both daughters work at the fromagerie), Freddy (father) and Thibaut (son who works at the farm).

Of their five children, three want to ensure the continuity of their parents’ work: Bénédicte and Magaly at the fromagerie and Thibault on the farm.

The fromagerie began its activities in 1995 on the farm 50 kilometres north of Montréal.

Fromagerie La Suisse Normande will be represented by Plaisirs Gourmets at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market on June 6 in historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman of Canadian Cheese Awards and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. He’s hardly ever met a cheese he didn’t like.

Louis d’Or: Canadian Cheese of the Year 2018

Louis d’Or, made by Jean Morin of Fromagerie Presbytere, is the 2018 Cheese of the Year.

Louis d’Or, an outstanding Alpine-style cheese made by Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, Québec, was named the 2018 Cheese of the Year in the biennial Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese judging and competition in the country.

The 2018 Canadian Cheese Awards program, which started at University of Guelph, Food Science Department, with the judging of 375 submitted cheeses in late February, culminated June 6 with a presentation ceremony and tasting gala at historic St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Loblaw Companies is Marque Sponsor of Awards while Dairy Farmers of Canada is Principal Partner, Cow Milk Cheese.

Complete list of winners by categories:

CHEESE OF THE YEAR/FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION

BEST FRESH CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE FRAIS

BEST FRESH PASTA FILATA CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À PÂTE FILÉE

 BEST SEMI-SOFT CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À PÂTE  SEMI-FILÉE

BEST FETA/CHEESE IN BRINE/MEILLEUR FETA/FROMAGE EN SAUMURE

  • Krinos Traditional Feta – Krinos, Vaughan, Ontario

BEST FETA/CHEESE IN BRINE/MEILLEUR FETA/FROMAGE EN SAUMURE

—Private Brands Division—

BEST FIRM CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME

BEST FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES (Swiss-style)/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES

BEST WASHED RIND CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À CROÛTE LAVÉE

BEST MIXED RIND CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE

BEST MIXED RIND CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE

—Private Brands Division—

BEST BLOOMY RIND CHEESE/MEILLEUR PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

BEST BLOOMY RIND CHEESE/MEILLEUR PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

—Private Brands Division—

BEST LACTIC RIPENED CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE LACTIQUE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

BEST MILD & MEDIUM CHEDDAR (aged up to 9 months)/ MEILLEUR CHEDDAR DOUX & MOYEN (maximum de 9 mois d’affinage) 

BEST OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months)/MEILLEUR CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)

BEST AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months)/MEILLEUR CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)

  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old CheddarCows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

BEST GOUDA CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE GOUDA

BEST BLUE CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE

BEST FLAVOURED CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE AROMATISÉ

BEST FLAVOURED FRESH CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE FRAIS AROMATISÉS

  • Chevrai Roasted Garlic Soft Fresh Goat Cheese – Woolwich Dairy, Orangeville, Ontario

BEST FLAVOURED FRESH CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE FRAIS AROMATISÉS

—Private Brands Division—

BEST SMOKED CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE FUMÉ

  • Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

BEST GRILLING CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE À GRILLER

  • Queso Fresco – Sabana, Oakville, Ontario

BEST COW’S MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE

  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

BEST GOAT’S MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE

BEST SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS

BEST WATER BUFFALO MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BUFFLONNE

BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE

BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER

BEST ORGANIC CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE

BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU

BEST NEW CHEESE (Introduced to market during 2017) MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Mis en marché en 2017)

BEST B.C. CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LA COLOMBIE BRITANNIQUE

BEST WEST CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’OUEST (Alberta, Saskatchewan et Manitoba)

BEST ONTARIO CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO

BEST QUEBEC CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC

BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE/MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES

  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Biggest cheese competition in Canada

Judging by a jury of 14 cheese experts took place at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, in February. A total of 117 finalists were selected from the 375 cheeses entered by producers from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

The 2018 Canadian Cheese of the Year and champions in 33 categories were announced at the Awards Ceremony on June 6 at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto followed by an Awards Tasting Gala. The next day, winners were featured at Canadian Cheese Expo for the trade followed by Canada’s first Artisan Cheese Night Market open to the public.

Fifty-six of the 117 nominations went to 22 Québec cheese producers led by Fromagerie La Station, 7 finalists, Laterie Charlevoix, 6, and Fromagerie du Presbystere, 5.

Sixty-one of the 117 nominations went to 23 producers in English-Canada, led by Cows, 12 finalists, Glengarry Fine Cheese, 5, and Amalgamated Dairies, Cross Wind Farm and Mountainoak Cheese, 4 each.

Canadian Cheese Awards is the only pan-Canadian cheese competition open to all milks used in cheesemaking—cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo—with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

“We aim to honour and celebrate 100% pure natural cheese that has achieved technical excellence and exhibits the highest aesthetic qualities,” says Georgs Kolesnikovs, Awards Chairman.

The biennial Canadian Cheese Awards is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the support of Loblaw Companies as Marquee Sponsor and Dairy Farmers of Canada as Principal Partner, Cow Milk Cheese.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, is on hiatus in 2018 to allow resources to be devoted to the launch of Artisan Cheese Night Market and related events.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year 2016

Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year 2014

Cheesemaking technology rescheduled to June 8-12

A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.

A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.

Here’s your chance to get real cheese smarts.

The University of Guelph has been offering some version of its cheesemaking course since 1893, though its present professor, Art Hill, began teaching his Cheesemaking Technology Short Course with the Food Sciences department in 1986.

The  acclaimed course—designed for artisan and commercial cheesemakers, cheese hobbyists, and government and sales personnel who work with cheesemakers—focuses on the science and technology of cheesemaking. Students attend lectures and apply the principles learned in a cheesemaking laboratory.

“The focus is on understanding the manufacturing principles of technological families of cheese, rather than becoming expert in the manufacture of particular cheese varieties,” says Professor Hill. The program is offered annually in the spring and runs for five days. The next course offering runs from June 8-12, 2015. Those interested can visit the course website.

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A cheese lover’s tour of B.C. creameries set to start

A 2013 Buick Verano Turbo serves as the Cheesemobile for our B.C. Cheese Tour.

A 2013 Buick Verano Turbo serves as Official Cheesemobile for our B.C. Cheese Tour.

Francis has his Popemobile, CheeseLover.ca has its Cheesemobile.

It’s a luxurious Buick Verano Turbo to whisk us around British Columbia over the next three weeks. The mission is to see how much artisan and farmstead cheese we can enjoy—reporting on our tasting adventures here and on Facebook and Twitter.

As much as we look forward to sampling cheese new to our palates (and generally unavailable in Ontario), we especially look forward to getting to know the men and women who make the cheese. At our first stop, at Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, we’ll be getting into the make room to help make cheese curds.

Here’s the itinerary for the inaugural B.C. Cheese Tour, roughly in order of the routing we plan to take:

B.C. Cheese Tour II, perhaps in 2014

Starting with any of the above that we won’t be able to visit this summer and continuing on to

B.C. Cheese Tour III will focus on Vancouver Island:

Click here for Google Map showing all 25 artisan cheese producers in B.C.

Much thanks to General Motors Canada for providing the Buick Verano for our B.C. Cheese Tour.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

How many Canadian Grand Prix finalists have you tasted?

Cheesemakers from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island submitted a record 225 cheeses in 19 different categories in the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, this country’s most prestigious cheese competition sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada.

A jury of eight cheese experts gathered in Montreal for a closed-door session a week ago to select 58 finalists that exemplify the world-class cheese being produced in Canada. Two cheesemakers—Fromagerie du Presbytère of Québec and Sylvan Star Cheese of Alberta—dominated the finalists with six selections each.

The 2013 Grand Champion and category champions will be unveiled at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala of Champions in Montreal on April 18. The competition is restricted to cheese made with cow’s milk.

The first time many of the winners will be available for tasting and purchase by the public in one place will be at the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1-2 in Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County.

Here are the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix finalists, with cheese shown left to right in order of listing:

FARMHOUSE CHEESE

ORGANIC CHEESE

FRESH CHEESE

FRESH CHEESE WITH GRILLING PROPERTIES

SOFT CHEESE WITH BLOOMY RIND

SEMI-SOFT CHEESE

WASHED OR MIXED RIND CHEESE (SOFT, SEMI-SOFT AND FIRM)

FIRM CHEESE

GOUDA

SWISS-TYPE CHEESE

MOZZARELLA (BALL, BRICK OR CYLINDER)

BLUE CHEESE (VARIOUS RINDS, WITH OR WITHOUT VEINING)

FLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED NON-PARTICULATE FLAVOURINGS

FLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED PARTICULATE SOLIDS AND FLAVOURINGS

MILD CHEDDAR (AGED 3 MONTHS)

MEDIUM CHEDDAR (AGED 4 TO 9 MONTHS)*

*Four finalists were elected in this category due to a tie between two scores.

OLD CHEDDAR (AGED FROM 9 MONTHS TO A YEAR)

AGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 1 YEAR UP TO 3 YEARS)

AGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 3 YEARS)

The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, celebrating the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.

“Canadian cheese makers from coast-to-coast are producing top quality, impressive cheeses,” said Phil Bélanger, Canadian Cheese Grand Prix jury chairman. “The diversity we saw within the 19 categories really showcases how evolved this craft has become in Canada. From aged Cheddars to organic cheeses, cheesemakers from across Canada are taking it to the next level and are the envy of other cheesemaking nations.”

The jury members had the envious challenge of tasting all 225 cheeses and naming three finalists in each category. Tasting began with the milder cheeses and progressed to the more full-bodied varieties. Jury members carefully observed, touched, smelled, and tasted each cheese and evaluated them based on very specific criteria including flavour, texture and body, colour, appearance, and salt content.

The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix began in 1998 to promote achievement and innovation in cheesemaking and to increase appreciation for fine quality Canadian cheese. The competition celebrates the proud tradition of the diverse cheeses made in Canada with cow’s milk ranging from Gouda to Blue cheese.

All eligible cheeses must be produced in Canada, bear the 100% Canadian Milk symbol on their packaging and be available for purchase at retail.

Click here for photos of the judging action.

KISS works for Newfoundland cheesemaker Adam Blanchard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, you don’t need a million dollars to start making artisan cheese commercially. The proof is in the photo which shows how Adam Blanchard does it at Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, Newfoundland’s only artisanal cheese company. As Kelsie Parsons discovered:

Adam doesn’t have an expensive pasteurizer, a huge vat or other impressive equipment. His production facility consists of a commercial kitchen where he makes cheese in stock pots on the stove top and he cuts the curds with a fillet knife. He ages his cheeses in reworked refrigerators. Five Brothers produces mozzarella, queso fresco, cheddar, brie and the occasional blue.

Kelsie crossed Canada last summer visiting cheesemakers to gather material for an upcoming book on the Canadian artisan cheese scene. He’s a guest blogger at Cheese and Toast maintained by Sue Riedl. Click here for Kelsie’s take on new Canadian cheesemakers to watch. His post is the source of the photo and anecdote published here with thanks.